Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tea 101 at Bab's and Coco's Tea Emporium LLC

What a delightful afternoon I have had so far.  Just got back from Bab's and Coco's Tea Emporium LLC who was having their first class entitled Tea 101.

I learned a lot about the tea and their handout was great.  Now if you aren't a fan of tea, you can skip this whole blog entry because I am going to talk and the seminar/class and post pictures from it.

First of all I apologize to Babs and Coco for any misinformation that I might give.  It is due to my leaky brainpan and not their presentation.  So with that said, let's begin shall we?

Did you know that you can't call something (or shouldn't) tea until it has Camelia Sinesis in it? Some other tidbits that I picked up (you should go to their next one if you are in the area)....

1.  Camelia Sinesis is easy to grow and has a lot of varieties although it is a single species.

2.  The highest yields come from lower altitudes and the highest quality comes from the higher altitude.  That is what they call Monkey Picked (the higher altitude ones).  It is called monkey picked because it was said that only monkeys could pick the leaves because it grew in such a tall place.  Note to Bonni:  sign up for the class when they talk about the legends and stories about teas.

3.  Lots of things influence the tea - geography, season it gets plucked in, tea bush variety, cultivator, method of leaf manufacture and, of course, the humans makimng it.

4.  After tea is plucked it needs to be withered.  That is warm air that is circulated around and through it to cause the leaves to wilt.  That takes around 12 hours.

5.  Green teeas are put into tsteamers that will kill the enzymes and guarantee that no oxidation will take place.

6.  Tea is rolled either by hand or a mechanical roller.  Why does that remind me of the stories of rolling cigars?

7.  The leaves or rotated on ribs in a machine to gently bruise the them so they open up their juices to the air.  Another method is to put on the leaves on oxidation tables so that they can come in contact with enzymes in the leaf.

8.  The tea on the store shelves (most of it anyway) is actually the dust and fannings from the tea.  That comes after the teas get put through something call a rotor vane.  That tea is called cut Tear Curl (CTC).

9.Then it has to go for drying or firing.  Think putting it in a pan, or steam it or bake it.

10.  It has to be cooled quickly

11.  the leaves get graded along a series of mesh tables.  Think sorting sieves.  the smallest like fannings and dust drop through smallest holes and are used for teabags.  Now don't get me wrong.  The store bought teas are good also and can be used for a variety of things besides just drinking.  If i want to tea stain a piece of muslin, you can be sure that I won't be using my Celebration tea but will use regular lipton tea instead.

12.  The tea has to go through a tasting and cupping process to be graded and evaluated and then samples are put into tins and sent to brokers.

13.  A professional tea taster will sip and spit up to 450 cups before lunch.

Other interesting things:

type of tea depends on what you do with the leaf when it is plucked.  It is broken up into two divisions:  eastern and western.  A cute note that was said:  The eastern name for white tea is called Dance of the Leaf because of how it opens up.  The western name for the same tea is called something like Agony of the Leaf because of how it opens up and dances around in the water.

They talked about White, Yellow, Green, Oolong, Pu'erh (think poo-air or was it pew-air), and Black teas.  Also about Herbals and Tisanes Rooibos (yucky in MY opinion), Honeybush and YerbaMat and Roasted Mate.

Yerba and roasted Mate come from Argentina (at least the ones they carry) and is like coffee.  In Argentina they drink it out of a gourd and you mix it with water until it becomes almost like mud and then sip through a straw.

Some people prefer the second or later pressings.  George Harrison, one of the Beatles, preferred the third impression and his son used to think he just messed up the first two.

Green teas are not all alike.  Those from Japan are grown by the ocean air and water which influences their taste.  China green tea is different.

Oolong teas can be brewed several times (see above about George Harrison).

I came away with more knowledge about teas and also a new tea to try.  I bought Imperial Soldier's Pu'erh which is a pu'erh with a citrus burst.  It has pu'erh tea, natural citrus essential oil, lemon verbena, and lemon grass.  I haven't opened it up yet since I had three cups of tea at the tastings (grins).  Perhaps tomorrow.  A Pu'erh tea comes from China.  It can be white, green or black.  Originally there was an unknown bacterium in their water and ground which caused the tea to ferment after it was made.  In other words, the tea improves over time (think like wine improving or females with age...hehehe).  Now some factories spray that bacterium on the tea to enhance it more.  The Pu'erhs can be compressed into bricks or fun shapes.  They had small birds nests at the store but they can be large sizes (think dinner plates) also.

Now for the Pictures.

The people start to arrive.

The Store is nice and clean and quite open.  Their displays are not crammed in so you can see what they have.

You can see in this picture of my favorite tea (Celebration), that they have little jars next t the teas so that you can smell them.

People are now starting to sign in for the seminar. 

Coco (nick name) gave a good presentation to a full house.

Once she started to talk about the different types of tea (green, white, etc) Coco passed around the little jars so we could smell samples of each.

At the end, we kept Babs (nick name) busy at the brewing station.

Scones were also made and offered.  They sell the scone mixes there.  It was VERY YUMMY.  I tried the cranberry and vanilla scones and was hard pressed not to take them and run.  Not dry at all and had good flavor.  A nice complement to the teas.

Everybody was friendly and I think everybody enjoyed it.  There were people representing a variety of ages (yes, even a young baby and a young lady who REALLY knew what she liked and how she liked it) to the elderly.  Was it a perfect presentation?  There was room for improvement.  For instance the passing around of the teas could be reworked a little bit.  Perhaps to have more room or limit the size of the class.  Still overall it was a solid A presentation and this was their first so they have time to improve. 

I will watch for their next class and/or tasting and see if I can attend.

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